Rain Keeper resides in Toronto. He has worked for a variety of organizations for the past 10 years such as NaMeRes (Native American Mens Residence), Evangel Hall Mission and the Parkdale Activity – Recreation Centre. Rain Keeper has also served as a Forensic Support Security Officer patrolling the rough areas of Toronto’s high risk neighborhoods. Rain Keeper is now working on his first novel and is pursuing a writing career.
BCP: Why poetry?
RK: Because poetry doesn’t matter, it’s reluctant to be written down and the poet is in crazy pursuit for it. Poetry doesn’t like being loved or crested but the poet is brain-sick for his/her own words.
BCP: What is your process?
RK: I don’t think I’m that good of a poet or writer for that matter and that’s the process. You don’t have to be good, you don’t need to be an Emily Dickinson or a Robert Frost be a poet. Anyone can become a poet it’s easy as long as you know how to spell.
BCP: How long have you been writing poetry?
RK: On and off since I could write but it was never that big a passion until I reached my mid-forties.
BCP: Who are your influences?
RK: My greatest influences are Sea Fever’s John Masefield, The Turning of Elenor Rumming’s John Skeleton and/or the poetic ballads of Rosamund Marriott Watson.
BCP: Your poetry is emotional, honest, and stimulating. What do you try to convey to your readers?
RK: That poems aren’t just from the heart or mind, but from the emotions the pen in your hand is writing, or in my case a laptop.
BCP: Does your Native identity play a part in your writing?
RK: No, at least I don’t think so, I think writing from my native identity is just an illusion. I’d be defeating my own purpose as to who I am and how I write.
BCP: You found Whiskey Bullets by Gary Gottfriedson to be a strange collection. Why?
RK: First off, I’ve never read cowboy Indian poetry until now. Yes, I’ve read cowboy poems but I’ve never tread where the deer and the antelope play. I usually stick to sidewalks and streetcars.
BCP: You have written in workshop settings and you write alone at coffee shops a lot. Which do you prefer? What do you feel are the benefits of each?
RK: Workshops, are much easier for a controlled surrounding, and you can or most of the time accomplish something. Where as in a cafe you have chaos, lots and lots of chaos. With nine or ten different conversations going on all around you. I may not get much done but I’m comfortable with all the busyness of the environment. Where as in a workshop everyone is trying to be cutesy with the facilitator, I don’t want to be cutesy I want to be a class act then I’ll be cutesy with the facilitator, why should I be satisfied with only one when I can have both.
BCP: The poetry you have shared with me is funny and touches on subjects that many people would not go near. Is a lot of your poetry like that?
RK: Some of it is, not all, most is personal feely—I hurt myself so to speak. But poetry for me also has to be daring, to be a fool and rush in where angels fear to tread, to be all, to conquer all. And if I don’t have that feeling of conquest in my veins then that day I am neither poet nor writer.
BCP: You were featured in the famed zine Broken Arrow that has been read all over Turtle Island. What was that like? Did you expect such a large response? Does it put pressure on you to maintain that status?
RK: It was scary, I didn’t expect much, I was more interested in getting responses for Broken Arrow. I wanted the zine to be a success that’s all I was concerned about. It was the facilitators who encouraged me to get some writings published. So I did, it was a blast now I want more.
BCP: You are currently working on a novel. Has that helped with your poetry?
RK: Oh yeah, my novel, I’ve been writing that thing since the arrival of Columbus. Yeah, I would say it has, between a brain hemorrhage and a blood clot I’d write some poetry which help stop the hemorrhaging or stop the blood from clotting to much.
BCP: When do you expect to have your own collection of poetry published?
RK: I never thought to much about having poetry published. But it’s something to really think about. My daughter is collecting all my works of art maybe one day I’ll be worth something.
BCP: What advice do you have for other writers out there who are having difficulties with their writing, or who have yet to see their work in print?
RK: Advice? That’s a lot of power to just throw around like that. If you want to be inspired, first read, then read some more. Because somewhere in those books is a word that will inspire you but you have to find it first.
Tune in to Black Coffee Poet Friday April 1, 2011 for a video of Rain Keeper reading his poetry.